AHCCCS Submits Work Requirement Waiver

An AZ law (from 2015) requires AHCCCS to annually ask the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for permission to require work (or work training) and income reporting for “able bodied adults” as well as a 5-year lifetime limit on AHCCCS eligibility. 

The work requirement and 5-year limit requests that were turned in during the Obama Administration were denied, but the new administrator CMS has publicly said (and written) that they’re receptive to proposals from states to require work or community engagement for people who want to receive Medicaid.

This week AHCCCS submitted their official waiver request asking permission to implement the following requirements for certain adults receiving Medicaid services: 

  • A requirement to become employed, actively seek employment, attend school, or partake in Employment Support and Development (ESD) activities (with exceptions below);
  • A requirement to bi-annually verify compliance with the requirements and any changes in family income or other eligibility factors; and
  • Limit lifetime coverage for able bodied adults to five years (with exceptions below).

    Here are the proposed exempted groups:

    • People who are at least 55 years old;

    • American Indians;

    • Women up to the end of the month in which the 90th day of post-pregnancy occurs;

    • Former Arizona foster youths up to age 26;

    • People determined to have a serious mental illness;

    • People receiving temporary or permanent long-term disability benefits from a private insurer or from the government;

    • People determined to be medically frail;

    • Full-time high school students who are older than 18 years old;

    • Full-time college or graduate students;

    • Victims of domestic violence;

    • People that are homeless;

    • People who have recently been directly impacted by a catastrophic event such as a natural disaster or the death of a family member living in the same household;

    • Parents, caretaker relatives, and foster parents; or

    • Caregivers of a family member who is enrolled in the Arizona Long Term Care System.

    Able-bodied adult members will be required to meet the following activities or combination of activities, for at least 20 hours per week to qualify for AHCCCS:

    • Be employed;

    • Attending school; or

    • Attending an ESD program (e.g. English as a Second Language courses, parenting classes, disease management education, courses on health insurance competency, and healthy living classes. 

    People looking for a job and meeting the requirements to receive unemployment benefits would be deemed as meeting the work requirements.

    Community service hours may count toward the required 20 hours per week for people transitioning from the justice system, living in an area of high unemployment, or who otherwise face a significant barrier to employment.

    The entire waiver request is 678 pages long- but don’t let that scare you off.  The meat of it is only 13 pages long.

    P.S. I didn’t see a request to change the reimbursement scheme for community health centers or the limitations on non-emergency medical transportation in the waiver request.


    New Tax Law Repeals Penalties for Not Having Health Insurance

    The new federal tax law that will be signed shortly eliminates the penalties that people currently need to pay for choosing not to have health insurance. The penalty elimination begins on January 1, 2019…  so, there will still be a financial penalty for not having health insurance during 2018. 

    The tax penalty for not having health coverage in 2017 is $695 per adult and $347 per child, or 2.5% of one’s household income, whichever is greater. About 4 million US taxpayers paid the penalty in 2016 (an 80,000 Arizonans paid the tax penalty that year).

    The CBO estimates that eliminating of the mandate will result in 80,000 more Arizonans becoming uninsured during the first year of implementation (2019).  By 2027 they estimate that the number of uninsured will rise by 13 million people nationally (260,000 in Arizona).

    The change is also expected to increase premiums on the Marketplace by an unknown amount in 2019 because younger and healthier people are expected to disproportionately elect not to buy health insurance.  Part of that increase may be mitigated if congress chooses to restore the Cost Sharing Reductions and if they authorize a reinsurance program


    CDC Submits Much Smaller Budget Request

    This week the CDC turned in their FY 18 budget request.  The overall request is 17% smaller than last year’s agency budget.  If enacted as requested, the funding cut would have big implications for state and county health departments.  The request is for $6B in budget authority which is $1.2B less than the FY 2017 Continuing Resolution (CR) level (a 17% reduction).  Here’s a link to the actual budget request

    Here are the bullet’s identified as an introduction to the request from the CDC Director:

    •  Creation of the new America’s Health Block Grant, reforming the model of existing state-based chronic disease programs to increase flexibility

    • Reform of public health preparedness and response activities, including a greater emphasis on risk in the state grant program.

    • Enhanced support for vector-borne disease outbreaks

    • Critical investments to improve our laboratories and facilities

    • Continued efforts to reduce deaths due to opioid abuse, misuse, and overdose

    The budget request is too long and complicated to characterize fully here- but I’ve picked out a few highlights.

    America’s Health Block Grant Program ($500 million)

    The FY 2018 budget request includes a new $500 million “America’s Health Block Grant” to increase flexibility on the leading chronic disease challenges specific to each State, which could include preventing and better managing heart disease and diabetes—two of the most common and costly chronic diseases—as well as arthritis, the leading cause of disability in the United States. 

    The request proposes to eliminate the following programs completely:

    • Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grants (-$160.0 million)

    • Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (-$51.0 million)

    • Prevention Research Centers (-$25.4 million)

    • Cancer Prevention and Control (-$18.1 million)

    • Hospitals Promoting Breastfeeding (-$8.0 million

    • National Early Child Care Collaboratives (-$4.0 million)

    • Health Promotion (-$10.5 million)

    • Occupational Safety and Health (-$138.5 million) – eliminating funding for state and academic partners for conducting, translating, or evaluating research

    • Education and Research Centers (-$28 million)

    The following programs would be significantly scaled back (but not eliminated in their entirety):

    • Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (-$222 million) – the agency says that the America’s Health Block Grant could make up a portion of this cut if states prioritize these activities in their block grant

    • Public Health Preparedness and Response (-$136.3 million)- with large reductions in the state cooperative agreements

    • Immunization Program (-$89.5 million) – CDC would continue to provide funding to the 64 immunization awardees for state infrastructure awards, vaccine direct assistance, and laboratory capacity- but at a substantially reduced level.

    • Emerging and Zoonotic Infections (-$64.9 million)

    Remember that this is the agency’s budget request- not a final funding decision by congress.  In all likelihood, the agency was directed by the Executive to submit a budget that’s 17% smaller- reflecting the goals of the President’s budget.  As such- the CDC Director (Brenda Fitzgerald, MD) may not really want to make these cuts- but when you work for an Executive you gotta to follow their instructions (or quit- in which case someone else will).

    You can weigh in regarding the proposed CDC budget with your Representative and Senators by sending a message via this: APHA FCDC Funding Action Alert Tool.


    Innovative Community Health Worker Strategies: Medicaid Payment Models for Community Health Worker Home Visits

    By Tina Kartika December 19th, 2017

    Due to mounting evidence that community health workers (CHWs) can improve health outcomes, increase access to health care, and control medical costs,[1] states are increasingly engaging their CHW workforce to replicate those successes at the state level. However, the policies and programs that regulate and pay for CHWs differ dramatically across states,[2] and states facing difficulties advancing CHW initiatives can gain insights from the experiences of other programs across the country.

    The National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) recently updated its State Community Health Worker Models Map, and is currently identifying innovative state strategies that have helped CHW initiatives meet their goals. This case study, which explores payment models for CHWs conducting home visits in Minnesota, New York, Utah, and Washington State, is the second in a series of products that highlight those CHW program strategies.

    Community Health Workers and Home Visits

    Health outcomes are influenced by many factors, one of which is physical environment. Living in an unhealthy home environment can cause or exacerbate health issues. For example, exposure to lead in the home from lead paint or contaminated drinking water, “affects the brain’s ability to control impulses and process information,” which can lead to children’s underperformance in school and later in the workplace.[3] Exposure to dust mites, mold, and cockroaches can trigger asthma attacks.[4]

    In addition to improving health outcomes and quality of life, addressing health hazards in the home environment can yield positive economic results. Remediating lead paint hazard in homes built before 1960 is estimated to generate $3.5 billion of earnings, health and education savings, and quality-adjusted life year benefits for 311,000 low-income children.[5] Home visiting services targeting asthma are estimated to generate $1.39 to $5 of savings for every dollar invested.[6] Assessing the home environment is a critical first step to reduce these hazards, and CHWs can be trained to conduct healthy home assessments,[7] educate, and connect patients to resources during home visits.[8]

    Payment Models

    Low-income households are more likely to live in unhealthy homes with significant lead-based paint hazards and indoor allergens.[9] Although Medicaid covers many low-income children and adults,[10] few state Medicaid programs directly reimburse CHWs to provide in-home services that address healthy home environments. The following are examples of payment models used by several states to finance home-based preventive services provided by CHWs:

    §  Medical expenditure: In Minnesota, home-based preventive services provided by CHWs can be reimbursed under Medicaid as long as the services qualify as diagnostic-related patient education and the CHWs work under the supervision of a licensed medical professional. Beneficiaries can receive up to 12 hours of these services each month.

    §  Administrative expenditure: Some accountable care organizations (ACOs) in Utah are covering the costs of home-based preventive services through administrative payments.[11] According to a National Center for Healthy Housing case study, Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs) in New York can also choose to provide home-based asthma services and bill the services as administrative expenses.

    §  Incentive payment: Under the authority of 1115 waivers, 12 states have implemented Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) programs that “restructures Medicaid funding into a pay-for-performance arrangement in which providers earn incentive payments outside of capitation rates for meeting certain metrics or milestones based on state-specific needs and goals.”[12] New York’s and Washington’s DSRIP programs in particular include projects that incentivize participating provider entities to provide CHW home visits to their members.

    §  In New York, 8 out of 25 participating Performing Provider Systems (PPSs) have implemented a project that expands asthma home-based self-management programs and includes home environment assessment, remediation, and education. During a meeting in February 2017, five of those eight PPSs reported engaging CHWs to meet the goals of the project.[13]

    §  Similarly, Washington’s Accountable Communities of Health (ACHs) can choose to implement a DSRIP project on chronic disease prevention and control and pay CHWs to conduct home visits for asthma services using DSRIP funding.


    Minnesota, New York, Utah, and Washington provide examples of using Medicaid dollars to finance CHW home-based services. States can enable providers to bill certain CHW home visits as medical expenses, encourage MCOs to cover these services as administrative expenses, and use incentive payments to fund these services. States seeking sustainable CHW programs can explore these models to determine what fits their needs and goals.

    Acknowledgements: The author thanks Anna Guymon, the New York State DSRIP Team, Jill Rosenthal, and Amy Clary for their helpful comments and contribution to this case study. This case study was made possible by support from the National Center for Healthy Housing.